The Faces and Lives in Gaza: part two…

imag0313Gaza, Palestine, an oceanic jewel of the Mediterranean.  Once a thriving, industrious, prospering and beautiful sea port; one that welcomed the world.  Now, Gaza is a place that possesses remnants of its former self, a paradise now in a surreal existence between living and hell.  An open air prison and active practice target range for IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces).

The people of Gaza continue to impress me, amaze me, inspire and humble me.  Gazans are so strong, emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually; forever holding onto and believing that Palestine will be free.  A people that in spite of incredible odds, challenges and despair strive to better themselves, educate themselves, and preparing themselves for a better future.

For some that means leaving the land they love so dear to pursue better opportunities for higher education and employment.  This is easier said than done for many, but the ones who do make it out, do so with every intention and purpose of making their way back home to help others, to help their families and build a better future for Palestine.

What I find frustrating on behalf of those who have honored me with their individual stories of their lives in Gaza, is that Occupation goes to extremes to exterminate the Palestinian people at every turn, and yet, when those fortunate enough to be accepted into Universities outside of Gaza, outside of Palestine all together, or are granted international Visas, are often denied exit from Gaza to pursue these opportunities.  This is a living contradiction of what the Zionist Occupation desires most.

12107046_758686997577013_5556221131851724603_nOngoing strife and conflict, hardship and for many displaced still after aggressive IOF action in the last four years, the choices to be made are difficult at best; people being forced to choose alliances in order to survive, something that is directly unspoken, but indirectly implied.  Forever cautious of what they speak and how they speak, especially to outsiders, I have come to gain greater respect for the Palestinian people.  Trust has been betrayed all to often, and broken beyond repair in many cases.  It is not easy for Palestinians and those especially living in Gaza to speak freely about their lives and existence.  Especially with ever-increasing threats from the Zionist Occupation Regime to control and eliminate those that speak out against occupation and its actions against Palestine and her people.

12096576_761478657297847_8423740922874530974_nI am ever protective of those with whom I have the honor to speak with, whose trust I have earned and been granted with great care.   These are amazing people, from those with families to those still hoping to one day have families of their own; the level of ambition, dignity, integrity and pride are qualities they all possess and ones I admire and look up to.  People who have so little, yet give of themselves so much to those who have even less is commendable and speaks to the true human spirit of compassion.

Gazans are happy, strong and dignified people, that in spite of tremendous loss, tragedy, ongoing daily conflict and intimidation at the hands of IOF, they still find reason to be grateful and to smile.  The more I get to know the Palestinian people, and those specifically in Gaza, the more I am deeply touched emotionally.

10432532_4855501202416_8886210532923147255_nIt is quite a surreal existence to live in such a compacted, high density population and yet, not have hatred and bitterness, at least not on the scale we on the outside would assume they should have.  This is the very nature of a peaceful people and the Palestinians are a peaceful people at the core of their being.

The conflict and resistance actions that most of us see in mainstream media, when put into perspective really forces you think.  You too would fight back when you and your entire existence has been controlled and dictated to brink of breaking your very will to live.  One point I continue to try to make for you the reader, is to put yourself, allow yourself, to actually think and feel what these people have had to live with and against now for three generations and beyond.  To have your every move, every action, thought, effort to be controlled.  Occupation in Palestine is occupation not only of land, but of the people themselves, every aspect of their day-to-day life existence is at the hands of their oppressor, the Zionist Occupation Government of Israel.

10276060_10153358175693325_998773002538043109_nImagine also the dire circumstances of living with government factions of Palestine who cannot agree among each other how to rule fairly and justly.  This creates a triangulation of control with the Palestinian people caught and trapped in the middle.  Professionals that work within Gaza, and in the West Bank, some who have not been paid regular wages and salaries for two years and beyond; why? because one faction insists the other is responsible.  It is common sense knowledge that a house divided surely falls; but it is obvious that common sense in government and governance is not a common occurrence.  Who suffers then?  the citizens, the innocent people of Palestine.

Is it not enough to suffer under Occupation?  let alone suffer at the hands of your own leaders who cannot agree on how to best help to unite and strengthen their own country.  Yet, Palestinians strive to unite, to become one, of like mind and purpose and as long as these efforts are continually made, Palestine will be free and strong.

*Photo credit:  M. Baroud

*Photo credit: I. Abu Hewella

 

 

 

 

Palestinian Strong – Palestinian Proud

1359_990710824319345_5007116844199080076_nWhen I started this project, my book “Faces of Palestine” two months ago, all the knowledge I had about Palestine was from history, documentaries, news stories over the years and books written about Palestine.  Through all of this, I realized something was missing, the voice of Palestine from the people first hand, from their mouths, from their families, their individual histories and experiences, their perceptions of the world around them and the world that is Palestine under occupation and oppression.

It is not my intention to write my book about the complexities of politics, or the complexities of religion.  My intention is write about the humanity of Palestine, the Palestinian people who are and remain forever strong and proud.  About their losses, tragedies, and great triumphs in the face of adversities unimaginable. Rich in centuries of culture and heritage, uniquely their own, traditions and values that are passed down from one generation to the next.

Over the last two months, I have met and have the distinct pleasure of now knowing many Palestinians that live within Palestine and some who live throughout the world, but whose hearts and roots remain forever in Palestine.

1888612_10202934194408830_6174820751435918259_nMy closest partner on this project and dear friend, Haitham Khatib, has and continues to spend countless hours with me, teaching me more about the Palestinian people, their cause, their lives, what they feel, think and experience.  Haitham has and continues to teach me more than I have learned in my lifetime about Palestine.

I am also learning from others more about the beautiful lives of the Palestinians, the ones the news and mainstream media never shows, and rarely talks about, if they acknowledge at all.

The last two months and ongoing, serve to validate why I am doing this, why I am writing this book, their stories, showing their faces, giving voice to their truth – and I am more encouraged, dedicated and determined to see this project through, to see it a success.

I have actually been asked quite a lot recently a question by people reading this site, my articles and my posts on social media – “are you Palestinian? you must be, because you have the heart and courage of a Palestinian”, I take this question and comment as a distinguished compliment, one that I am honored by.  My answer has now become, in all sincerity, “my heart and soul are Palestinian most surely”.

Someone said to me recently, “Maria what you are doing is remarkable and good, and greatly appreciated by the Palestinian people, but please don’t be disappointed if your efforts do not bring about big and drastic change for Palestine, because the machine of what works against Palestinian freedom is huge”.

My response was one of great determination and I explained I have no delusions or unrealistic expectations about what my book will accomplish.  Then, reverting to my inner poet, I used the following analogy… I am one person, but one person can bring about change in lasting ways; when you look at a still pond of water, where nothing breaks the surface tension of that water, and you pick up stone, throwing it to the center of the still water; what happens is the surface tension of the perfectly still water is now forever changed, never to revert to exactly as it was before the stone fell.  Once the stone has landed and sunk deep to the bottom, what remains are hundreds of ripples that spread and grow, bringing change forever to the water and the land it touches.

12494996_10153888178442533_2887465968704746376_nThis is what I hope to achieve with this book.  To be the stone thrown into the still water of the pond.  To provoke the reader, to draw the reader into the real lives of the Palestinian people.  To invoke a need to seek the truth, the need to take a stand with the humanity of the Palestinian people, to create a compelling hunger in the reader that they may begin to question their own knowledge of Palestine, their own perceptions and misconceptions about Palestine.

Even if my book only affects a handful of readers in these ways, this project, this book will be a success and be the ripples of the pond that bring positive change for Palestine and the Palestinian people.

For me, this book is only the beginning of what will be a lifetime of ongoing support, advocacy, and activism for Palestine and the Palestinian people, to bring awareness to the world and be a voice, one of many, speaking for Palestine; for a free Palestine.

Palestine…In Your Eyes I see

1282231687-the-secrets-behind-the-palestinian-flag-_414349Palestine…  In your eyes I see the beauty of Palestine looking back at me

In your voice I hear the roar of generations subjected to war

Beaten but not broken, tortured and outspoken

Strong and with dignity, you stand on what is rightfully your land

Martyrs held in mothers’ arms

Wrapped in flags of national pride

Israel may control, but Israel cannot hide

Together with Palestine’s mothers I have cried

My hand upon my chest and its Palestine’s heart I feel beating

Dreams will give way to realty and face-to-face we will be meeting

Demonstrations and protests

Until freedom is won, Palestine’s mind never rests

Taking a stand for what is right in the face of what is wrong

In my mind I hear the call of Palestine’s National song, Fida’i!

Living under the same skies, under the same sun,

Together we stand as one!

 

Translation of Lyrics